It has been just over a month since the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns opened its fourth pregnancy resource center in Arbutus and growth is coming slowly.
The Arbutus center had five clients in January, according to Allison Benson, the center director, and has already had three in February.
For now, the Arbutus center is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. and other days depending on volunteer availability.
Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns is a non-profit organization, with its funding from church groups, corporations and individuals.
Its four centers in Essex, Canton, Dundalk and now Arbutus are staffed by volunteers with services free to all patrons.
The centers offer a variety of resources, ranging from pregnancy tests to sonograms to support groups for mothers-to-be and new mothers.The centers not provide abortions or referrals for abortions.
Benson said that the program doesn't often advertise in magazines or newspapers and gets a lot of word of mouth recommendations as well as from its website (http://www.cpcforhelp.org).
In addition, the new center's storefront location on East Drive next to Domino's Pizza allows for plenty of visual non-threatening advertising, Benson said.
The new center opened in partnership with Matt's House, a non-denominational church that holds youth groups and other meetings in the space now occupied by Center for Pregnancy Concerns.
The location was ideal, given its vicinity to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus.
"There wasn't a pregnancy center in Arbutus itself," said Benson, whose husband is the pastor for Matt's House.
"And also the other really cool thing was, it's located so close to UMBC's college campus to really provide women with options if they do have an unexpected pregnancy," Benson said. "They can literally walk, it's not even a mile from UMBC."
The space provides a warm and welcoming environment for mothers with a comfortable couch in the counseling office and soft lighting throughout.
In addition to tests and counseling, the center also has Hannah's Cupboard, a collection of products and supplies for infants. Those in need are welcome to come in and help themselves from the cupboard up to four times per year.
"They can get diapers, wipes, formula, baby clothing...and they can get those services for up to two years," Benson said.
The Arbutus center has two volunteers who work in Hannah's Cupboard and six others who share time as counselors. They came to the program from many different churches, Benson said.
Carol Clews, the executive director of Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, said the center offers a variety of resources for mothers-to-be and new mothers.
"Women are, we are all, undereducated in that department," she said of pregnancy and parenting. "You don't think about it until it happens to somebody you know or it happens to you, and then you go, 'Wow.'"
The centers do provide post-abortion counseling and will not turn someone away based on their decision to proceed with that course of action.
"We're sad about the decision you made and we'll support you in any way we can, but we will not give you the address and the phone number," Clews said. "That's something you're going to have to find on your own."
"You give the risks of what an abortion is. You let them know what is happening to your own body as well as the body of the fetus that is developing inside you. We give all that information out. Now it's up to them to decide," said Cindy Irizarry, development director for all four centers.
"They come in for counseling. They find out they're pregnant. They may even have a sonogram and they still choose abortion. That's where, now, we offer the post-abortion counseling because we want them to know that we're still here for you regardless of what you choose," she said.
The Essex center offers "earn while you learn" classes where parents take classes and participate in various activities in order to earn "mommy dollars" to be spend at a small boutique in the center.
Benson said she hopes to bring a similar program to Arbutus.
There is a young moms support group, with about 14 total members. Four or five attend meetings regularly in the Arbutus center two Sundays per month.